This Heart for Hire by Elysa Hendricks

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Blurb:

A convent reared innocent and a gunslinger with no memory struggle to survive and find love while crossing the dangerous west Texas frontier.

Abandoned by his father and betrayed by his half-brother and fiancée on the eve of his wedding, Jake Gallagher no longer believes in love. Though he longs to go home, his undercover work for the Texas Rangers keeps him in a lawless Texas border town. Even though it jeopardizes his mission he refuses to stand by and watch outlaws rape and murder a young woman. Getting shot and losing his memory wasn’t part of his plan.

While fleeing from her stepfather’s plans to steal their ranch, Christina Goodwin witnesses her brother’s murder and is left in the hands of a merciless band of outlaws. Raised in a strict convent, Christina has little knowledge of men or the world, its dangers and temptations. Frightened and alone, she is forced to accept the help of the dark gunslinger who rescues her. Though drawn to Jake’s potent masculinity, she hesitates to trust him, fearing her stepfather has sent him to bring her back. Unsure of Jake’s motives for helping her, she struggles against him, determined to find a way to avenge her brother’s death and regain control of her ranch from her stepfather.

Publisher and Release Date:  Self-Published, 12 August 2011
RHL Classifications:

Time and Setting:  Wild West/Post Civil War
Genre:  Western Romance
Heat Level:  2
Reviewer Rating:  4 stars

Review by Susan

Elysa Hendricks takes the reader to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in her western romance This Heart for Hire.  The year is 1870 and the hostilities between American homesteaders and Native American Indians continue to rage as pioneers stake claims on uncharted land out west and prospectors pan for gold and silver.  It’s a story that takes place in the Wild West when professions like gunslinger, prospector, bandit and Texas Ranger were as common as today’s security guard, entrepreneur, crime lord and police officer.

It’s a time in which Hendricks describes the men as either honorable and compassionate or grotesquely perverse, dishonorable, and calculative.  She epitomizes these two extremes in the male characters as well as in the female roles who are depicted as either feral alley cats or genteel damsels.  These extremes are identifiable to the reader who is introduced to characters that are the image of pure evil or a portrait of wholesomeness and strength.

Hidden away in a convent, Christina St. Clair, born Christina Goodwin, is rescued by her brother, Christopher, from her step-father’s scheme to secure control of her deceased mother’s ranch by marrying Christina and killing Christopher.  Along their way St. Louis to stay with their uncle, Christopher is murdered by a Mexican bandit named Rico Alvarez, leaving Christina unprotected in an unruly land.

Stepping into Christopher’s stead is Jake Gallagher, a rancher who is working with a Texas Ranger to discover the identity of Rico’s gun supplier.  The bandit is illegally selling arms to rebel Indians.  It is later learned that the supplier is also the man who killed Jake’s mother and is tied into Christina’s plight.  In an effort to build suspense, Hendricks makes the evil characters excessively malicious.  Her involvement with them is superficial leading the reader to believe that some people are born to be cruel and malevolent.

Tension rises between Jake and Christina of a sexual nature.  Jake is sensitive to Christina’s feelings and has a sensual touch.  Christina is curious about the physical attraction she feels towards Jake and is eager to explore this craving, but she shows meekness in overcoming her fear of riding horses and recoils from defending herself against abusive men.  Her character depicts the gently bred women of this time period but as a result, she is not necessarily someone that modern women can easily relate to.

There is an intense showdown between Jake and Rico, and then between Jake and Christina’s step-father.  Both are done in typical Wild West regalia in the vane of Hollywood’s spaghetti westerns.

This Heart for Hire works the reader’s heart into a frenzy each time Christina’s life is in danger and consumes the reader in a quixotic lure when Jake is with her.  The Wild West might be too rugged at times for contemporary tastes but an honorable man like Jake Gallagher is built perfectly for fans of romantic historical novels.

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